Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Mormon Handcart Rescuer and Wellsville Settler: Nathan Bankhead

It is notable that an African American slave was among the handcart rescuers.  Dan Jones made a list of the rescuers, and included Tom Bankhead.  This was actually Nate Bankhead.  Nate had come to Utah in 1848 with the John Bankhead family as a slave.  The bank heads were from the South.  There were no laws about slavery, so basically it was tolerated, but the slave could choose not to be a slave.  Nate likely preceded his master's family to Utah to prepare the way for them.  He and his brother also drove wagons in support of the immigrants.  In 1856 he was asked to help with the rescue.  Not much is known about his service, but he was with the first wave of rescuers, an subject to. The same winter storms and cold.  He likely helped the Willie Company into the Valley.
Even though Nate Bankhead may have still been a slave, he was basically emancipated.  However he still an interest in the war and was routing for the South to be defeated.  In 1859 he traveled with John Bankhead to Cache Valley to help the early settlers with threshing.  He stayed and settled in Wellsville where he had a large garden.  One of his sons, George, settled in Mt. Sterling and gives the name to Cooky's Hollow, his nick mane.  
Nathan and his brothers and children in the area were a Lively group and sought out to provide music for dances.  Nathan was a caller.  They could also add to any social occasion with conversation and good spirit.  The color of their skin was really not an issue, and one of Nathan's daughter said she didn't realize she was Black as a child.

1 comment:

  1. Billy Wardle: Anybody remember the story of the Bankheads, African American family from Wellsville and an early settler?

    Ann Hansen: Fascinating. What happened to the family in the 20th century?
    Billy Wardle: I know there are Bankheads from Wellsville, but I think they are descended from John Bankhead (not black) because I never knew of any African Americans from Wellsville growing up.

    JoDee Myers: I don't remember any specific details but I remember my uncle telling of a black family that lived near the train station. (My memory isn't what it used to be)

    Sandra Heyrend Buck: Anyone from Mt Sterling who has heard of the small private family grave site were either Bankheads or black servants may have been buried? When I was small in the 1960's my uncle took me to see a small private family graveyard in Mt Sterling.